Agriculture Giants Join B2B E-Commerce Arena

Three of the United States’ largest agriculture companies, Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives, Cargill and DuPont Corp., have announced the formation of a new Internet marketplace for farm retailers, cooperatives and manufacturers.

The new site, Rooster.com, is slated to launch May 1st, and is expected to provide farmers with online access to a variety of retailers to whom they can market crops and from whom they can buy everything they need for their businesses.

Fertilizer, crop protection products, farm supplies and heavy equipment will all be available online through the site’s anchor tenants.

Powerful Trio

Cenex is a producer-to-consumer cooperative system owned by farmers, ranchers and their local cooperatives, Cargill markets and distributes agricultural and food products around the world, and DuPont is a pioneering developer of various food and health care products, fabrics, home/construction products, electronics, and transportation materials.

The trio says it plans to enlist other agribusiness companies to participate in the online market as well.

The group will also look for additional equity investments from some of those prospective online tenants. Though the site is designed to give its three founding partners greater exposure to farmers and agricultural businesses, the three hope to add competing farm suppliers to create a competitive pricing structure through one site.

Therefore, Cargill, Dupont and Cenex Harvest States agreed to operate Rooster.com as an independent business, with each initial investor holding equal shares.

Modernizing Farming

Farming is but one of a slew of industries that are jumping into the business-to-business e-commerce craze that is sweeping markets in all corners of the globe.

However, Rooster.com is not the first Internet venture for DuPont. The chemical and industrial products giant announced plans just two weeks ago to launch an online B2B market for industrial goods and services, in partnership with Internet Capital Group (ICG).

“We have committed to invest in [Rooster.com] to provide the technology and systems needed to give farmers, retailers and other purchasers additional choices, flexibility and convenience,” DuPont Group Vice President William Kirk said. The site joins farming service sites Powerfarm.com and DirectAg.com, which launched last year to provide specific goods or services directly to farmers.

Rooster.com will be designed to reward farmers for making the technological leap onto the Web. “The number of farmers using the Internet is growing rapidly,” Cargill Vice Chairman Robert Lumpkins said. “Rooster.com will help agriculture take a significant step forward in the new digital economy by providing a full range of products and services offered by many different vendors.”

Agriculture on the Web

The U.S. farming business generates an estimated $80 billion (US$) in revenues each year, with much of it expected to shift to the Internet as farmers and agribusiness companies gradually adopt computer technology. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated last summer that 52 percent of U.S. farmers with sales of more than $250,000 have access to the Web.

Rooster.com is expected to eventually enable farmers to connect to state and federal agencies, commodity organizations and other critical farm links. The site will provide product information, prices and delivery options from participating suppliers — as well as cash grain bids from competing buyers — in a secure Web environment. Farmers also will find news and weather, discussion forums and services on the site.

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